"Isolation Boulevard" (Aviator Entertainment; 2020)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This collection of classic Sweet songs was apparently recorded during the pandemic downtime. My first thought was why do we need another collection of re-recorded Sweet songs, especially when most of the original band is gone? But, as I listened to “Isolation Boulevard,” I found myself really enjoying it.

First, because many of the songs covered here are freaking excellent songs. Second, because this recording really rocks. The songs are pretty much note-by-note re-recordings but they sound great … from a performance level, a production level and a rock’n’roll level. And the band’s new vocalist (since 2019), Paul Manzi, delivers a fresh and strong performance throughout.

None of the songs here turn out better than the originals but they seem to have more meat to them and that helps “Isolation Boulevard” to be an unexpected treat.

For more information, check out https://www.thesweet.com/.

"Desolation Boulevard" (Capitol; 1975)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Now this is more like it.

After my experience with the "Sweet Originals" re-issue of this classic album (see below), I decided to go on a quest. My quest was to find the real "Desolation Boulevard" CD and to wash my hands of the "imposter" as quickly as possible.

It didn't take long.

A quick visit to Amazon.com and I found the original Capitol release on CD ... and it was even bargain priced! For three dollars less than the atrocity reviewed below, I got the complete original album, in the order I remembered and - guess what? - this one sounds even better than the "digitally re-mastered" one.

The real (as far as I'm concerned) "Desolation Boulevard" begins with "Ballroom Blitz," one of the classic Sweet songs not included on the import version below. "Blitz" is one of Sweet's biggest hits - how could it not be included on that other icky version?! I don't know. It's back here though and it sounds great. The other songs are back as well - every one of them (track listing follows below so you don't screw up and order that other thing). And not a single song is weak. 

Quite simply: This CD rocks. Yeah, maybe it rocks in a 70s-era Top 40 way, but so what? It rocks hard and it sounds amazingly fresh today. Sweet are a little closer to the pure pop side than was, say, Deep Purple or Slade, but their chunky, catchy, guitar riffs coupled with harmonizing vocals and superior songwriting made them more than just Top 40 hits, but solid rock'n'roll you didn't have to be embarrassed to listen to. 

The tracklisting for the real "Desolation Boulevard" follows. Do not be fooled by substitutes or earlier editions. Buy the one with the following tracklisting only!

Sweet "Desolation Boulevard" (Capitol Records CDP 7 48452 2)
1. Ballroom Blitz
2. The 6-Teens
3. No You Don't
4. A.C.D.C.
5. I Wanna Be Committed
6. Sweet F.A.
7. Fox on the Run
8. Set Me Free
9. Into the Night
10. Solid Gold Brass

Sweet is: Brian Connolly - vocals; Steve Priest - bass guitar, lead vocals; Andy Scott - all guitars; synthesizer, vocals; lead vocals on "Lady Starlight"; Mick Tucker - drums, timpani, tubular bells, gong, vocals.

"Desolation Boulevard" (Sweet Originals Re-issue) (RCA/BMG; 1974)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Sweet was a great melodic hard rock band from the 70s and 80s that you probably remember from their hits "Fox on the Run," "Ballroom Blitz," "Action" and "Love is Like Oxygen" - all of which have been and continue to be covered by bands today. Sweet's unique vocal styles, strong songwriting and poppy yet powerful guitars were an inspiration and an influence to many.

But you wouldn't know it from this piece of crap.

Despite the fact that this CD features almost exactly the very same artwork and the exact same title of the original 1975 vinyl release, this "Desolation Boulevard" bears very little resemblance to its predecessor. First of all, of the 11 songs contained herein, only four (that's right ... four) appeared on the original vinyl: "The Six Teens," "Solid Gold Brass," "Fox on the Run" and "I Wanna Be Committed" (which is listed here as a bonus track!). The balance of the tunes herein are less-than-stellar Sweet performances including a bizarre version of Elmer Bernstein's "The Man With the Golden Arm" and a cover of The Who's "My Generation."

Turns out this version is the original European version of the "Desolation Boulevard" album. The version I remember is the American release, which had the benefit of being cut-and-pasted to include all the big numbers and delete all the weak ones. 

Sorry, I want the American version, not this watered-down bore-fest. In my opinion, this is a CD era rip-off. Despite the fact that this CD claims to be "digitally remastered," the sound quality is sometimes a little murky. And, despite the fact that it is called "Desolation Boulevard," looks exactly like the original vinyl release, and - in fact - is listed as part of a "Sweet - Originals" package - it has almost nothing to do with the original 1975 American version. 

I know, I know - maybe I should have been a little more cautious when throwing down my hard-earned cash. But I didn't automatically think to check out the tracklisting and I'll bet you wouldn't either. The cover art is identical, the content is identical - at least that's what you'd think.

Avoid this CD like the plague. Find a copy of the old vinyl version, buy the original above, or burn your own CD instead. 

Sweet is: Brian Connolly - vocals; Steve Priest - bass guitar, lead vocals; Andy Scott - all guitars; synthesizer, vocals; lead vocals on "Lady Starlight"; Mick Tucker - drums, timpani, tubular bells, gong, vocals.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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